Ford Driver, Owners Reaction to Mike Helton's Promotion

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES February 10, 1999 Daytona International Speedway Bill France, Jr. announced Wednesday morning that Mike Helton has been named senior vice president and chief operating officer...

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES February 10, 1999 Daytona International Speedway

Bill France, Jr. announced Wednesday morning that Mike Helton has been named senior vice president and chief operating officer of NASCAR. Ford driver and car owners gave their reaction to that announcement.

DARRELL WALTRIP -66- Big Kmart/Route 66 Taurus -- "To me, if you've been around as long as I have, I saw the same thing happen with Big Bill when he passed the torch to Billy. It looks to me like they're doing about the same thing. I've watched Mike Helton over the last couple of three years here, he's a very capable man of doing the job. He understands the sport so well. He's run race tracks, a lot like Billy did. He's done it all, and then being the competition director has given him kind of a hands-on experience with the drivers, the sponsors, the manufacturers, so he's the right man for the job. What I like about him most is he's real even tempered. You've gotta really work hard to get him mad. Now I'm not saying he won't get mad, but you've gotta work hard at it. He'll usually hold his thoughts until everything is all said and done and then he'll give you his best answer and his best solution to your problem. I'm a big Mike Helton fan, I always have been. I knew him at Talladega and other places and when he came down here I wondered if that would ever happen, so from my perspective as a driver I'm very pleased about what they did."

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner, Roush Racing -- "Mike Helton will do a great job. They didn't come to me, but if they came to me and said they were getting ready to do this and asked me who I thought would be the guy, Mike Helton would be my choice. Mike has got maturity, he's got wisdom, he's certainly embroiled in France's philosophy of stock car racing so it'll be fine."

WILL IT BE EASIER TO MAKE YOUR POINT WITH MIKE BECAUSE HE'S SPENT MORE TIME IN THE GARAGE THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS? "No, I don't think so. I brought somebody new into the garage area last Thursday and I introduced him to Mike and Gary Nelson and I said to him, 'These are the guys that can make your life miserable or okay.' And I just hope for my life here to be okay as a competitor. If it ever got to be a breeze, then it certainly wouldn't be fair for everybody else. Mike has maintained an even hand for the responsibilities that he's been given and, whether I had an audience with Mike or had an audience with Bill in the last handful of years is of no consequence, I've gotten exactly the same kind of treatment, consideration, and sometimes rejection from one as the other."

MICHAEL KRANEFUSS, Car Owner -12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "Bill deserves to take some time off. He's got some good people in place. The good news is also that he will be around in case his presence is needed, but I really think that Mike Helton is the man that can take it from here. What Bill's done for the sport of auto racing, his whole family, it's remarkable and I hope he's gonna be around for a long, long time. If not in the ultimate executive position, at least with his advice and wisdom and friendship."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MIKE HELTON? "I've respected Mike Helton ever since I met him when he was working in Atlanta. We get a long fine. I think he enjoys a lot of respect with the people in the garage area. I don't think there's going to be a problem."

ROBERT YATES, Car Owner -- Robert Yates Racing -- "He's (Mike Helton) certainly a guy who can do it and has been really carrying the load anyway and, for me, he understands the competition side of it, the physics of it, so I'm probably rather than picking somebody from the other side of the fence, I think it's good. Mike understands what we do, what we have to go through. Certainly he's been doing a great job already. I got to watch when Bill France tookover and once they put it on him he did a wonderful job with it. I thought nobody else could ever do it like Bill France, Jr., but Mike's been handling it really well and I think it's wonderful. I think it's good for the sport and I think it's good for Bill France. I think that to recognize, I know some of us don't, but sometimes we are maybe too greedy for a job for too long and we stay in a job too long or we don't turn it over to the younger guys, so I really praise Bill France, Jr., for not only unloading the responsiblity but for giving Mike a great opportunity."

RICKY RUDD -10- Tide Taurus -- "I think it's a smart move. I think Bill has been slowly stepping away from it farther and farther as years go by. I think Mike has been being prepped for this job for some time now and I think he's a perfect choice, I think it's a smart move. I think it helps the future of the sport knowing who is gonna be taking over the reins, instead of waiting until Bill, I hope his health stays strong, but instead of him staying on the sidelines and then saying, 'I think I need to make a change,' he's already aggressively stepped up and put the right man in the job already and I think it strengthens the sport."

DOES IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE BEING A CAR OWNER OR DRIVER? "No, it really doesn't. He steps away from the day to day, but NASCAR is still family owned. They're always gonna control it and rule it and Mike is his choice. I'm sure Mike goes through the decision process with the guidelines Bill France wants him to make. But I think Mike is a real fair guy. He's known not to be a pushover. He's tough and he's hard, but he's fair and I think that's all we can ask for from the competitor's standpoint."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robert Yates , Mike Helton
Teams Yates Racing